What is Retrolisthesis and Can I Qualify for Disability?

Table of Contents

What is Retrolisthesis?

Retrolisthesis is a joint dysfunction where the vertebra slips backwards. (If it slips forward, then it’s a condition called spondylolisthesis) There are three forms of this retrolisthesis: Complete, partial or stair stepped retrolisthesis.

Retrolisthesis can be found in the shoulder and neck region, lower back and pelvis or stomach region. There are multiple grades of retrolisthesis, grade 1 retrolisthesis through grade 4 retrolisthesis. 

If you suffer from retrolisthesis, this painful condition, you could qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). 

In order to file a disability claim with retrolisthesis, you need to make sure that you can provide all of the supporting medical documentation that proves you are unable to work as a result of retrolisthesis.

How Does Retrolisthesis Affect Ability To Work?

If you suffer from retrolisthesis you could experience a bulge on your back, limited range of motion, back pain and pain in nearby areas. 

Retrolisthesis is one of several disorders of the spine and it can make it too painful to sit or stand for prolonged periods of time.

In this case, if your job requires you to sit or stand, your ability to work without experiencing pain could be near to completely impossible with grade 1 retrolisthesis through grade 4 retrolisthesis. 

Is Retrolisthesis a Disability? 

Yes, retrolisthesis can be considered a disability by the SSA and if it makes it impossible for you to work, then you might be able to get disability with retrolisthesis. 

For retrolisthesis to be a disability, you will need to meet a Blue Book listing, demonstrating your retrolisthesis is severe enough to qualify for disability benefits.

You will need to provide medical evidence that your retrolisthesis meets the SSA's definition of severe and will keep you from working for at least 12 months.

How to Qualify for Disability with Retrolisthesis

The SSA relies on the Blue Book to determine your eligibility for disability benefits with retrolisthesis. 

The Blue Book is the list of conditions that qualify for disability that helps a reviewer determine whether you are able to work with your retrolisthesis diagnosis.

When it comes to retrolisthesis, it falls under the many disorders of the spin listed in section 1.0 Musculoskeletal System. 

Since retrolisthesis is not specifically mentioned, it can fall under disorders of the spine. For example, since retrolisthesis can cause damage to the nerve root, there is a listing 1.15 Disorders of the skeletal spine resulting in compromise of a nerve root(s).

If you are able to match the listing or any other musculoskeletal system listing, then you may be able to qualify for disability for retrolisthesis.

How common are bone and joint injuries?

Qualifying For Disability with Retrolisthesis If You Don't Meet a Listing

If your retrolisthesis diagnosis does not fit the exact criteria under the Blue Book, you can still qualify for disability benefits using a residual functional capacity (RFC).

The RFC is a form that is completed by your physician and it outlines the maximum amount of work you are capable of doing given your specific retrolisthesis diagnosis.

Since the SSA reviewer will not be able to talk with you about how you are impacted by retrolisthesis, the RFC is your opportunity to talk about how your condition makes it impossible to work with retrolisthesis.

In some cases, the treatment for a condition like retrolisthesis can cause side effects that also affect your work, so all of this information can be included in the RFC.

How to Document Retrolisthesis For Your Disability Claim

Medical evidence is the key to winning your disability claim for retrolisthesis. If you have a sufficient amount of medical evidence to back up that you are unable to work anymore because of your retrolisthesis, the more likely you are to get disability with retrolisthesis.

When your retrolisthesis disability claim is being reviewed, the disability examiners will look at all the medical evidence you provide with your application. In your disability application with retrolisthesis, you should include: 

  • X-Rays, MRIs, and other medical imaging 
  • Doctor’s notes
  • Medications you are taking
  • Referrals to any specialists you are seeing (like spinal or neurological specialists)
  • Physical therapy notes that show your limitations from physical activity that you may have 

When you are applying for disability with retrolisthesis via the Blue Book, the Blue Book listing will tell you what medical evidence to include in your retrolisthesis disability application.

Additionally, if you work with a disability lawyer when you apply for disability with retrolisthesis, your lawyer will be able to tell you what additional medical evidence you need with your retrolisthesis disability application.

Have Your Retrolisthesis Case Reviewed By A Lawyer

If you have retrolisthesis, whether it be Grade 1 retrolisthesis or grade 4 retrolisthesis and you think you might be out of work, you may want to consider applying for Social Security disability benefits. 

Filing an application for disability benefits with retrolisthesis is easy, though many are denied disability when they first apply. 

You have to gather all of the medical documentation to prove you are suffering with retrolisthesis and make sure that everything is complete. 

You might consider working with a disability lawyer who can help guide you through the process to qualify with retrolisthesis. A disability lawyer will be able to tell you how much disability you can get.

A disability attorney who can work with your doctor to make sure that you have all of the retrolisthesis evidence you need according to the guidelines in the Blue Book so that your chances for a favorable outcome for disability with retrolisthesis increase.

You won’t need to pay up front and you only pay if your application is approved, so there no risk.

Considering applying for Social Security disability benefits with retrolisthesis but not sure how much you’ll earn per month? Our Social Security Benefits Calculator can help you determine how much you’ll receive from the SSA before you file for disability with retrolisthesis.To learn more about how a disability attorney or disability advocate can help with your retrolisthesis disability claim, fill out a free case evaluation.

Common Questions For People Qualifying For Disability With Retrolisthesis 

For people applying for disability with retrolisthesis, often times they have many questions regarding their application or qualification process.

Below are some of the common questions that people have regarding disability and retrolisthesis

What Treatment Can I Get With Retrolisthesis?

Treatment for retrolisthesis can vary depending upon the severity of symptoms and the grade of the retrolisthesis.

A grade 1 retrolisthesis diagnosis has a different treatment than grade 4 and should be discussed with a physician.

In more extreme cases of retrolisthesis, surgery may be required. While there are many different causes that can contribute to retrolisthesis and other spine associated problems, certain ones can be avoided through maintaining a healthy lifestyle while avoiding traumatic and/or forceful physical activities. For example:

Poor posture, whether sitting at your desk or standing at home, always make sure that you keep your back straight and slightly arched.

Doing this will help prevent your spine from slouching forward which can cause misalignment of your vertebrae.

What Are The Retrolisthesis Grades of Severity?

Retrolisthesis is graded from 1 to 4 based on the percentage of posterior (backward) displacement of the vertebral body’s foramen (neuroforamen).

Grade 1 retrolisthesis having a mild degree of displacement and grade 4 being the most severe degree of displacement.

  • Grade 1 retrolisthesis has a mild degree of posterior displacement,
  • grade 2 has moderate degrees,
  • grade 3 has severe degrees,
  • grade 4 has an extreme degree.


The severity of retrolisthesis is important in determining the stability of the adjacent facet joint. A grade 1 retrolisthesis is generally mild, while a grade 4 retrolisthesis can pose significant instability to the joint and may require surgical intervention.

  • Grade 1: Up to 25% posterior displacement
  • Grade 2: 25% to 50% posterior displacement
  • Grade 3: 50% to 75% posterior displacement
  • Grade 4: 75% to 100%


While retrolisthesis is a relatively rare condition, often times it is disabling enough to qualify for disability benefits.

If you have retrolisthesis and you are unable to work anymore because of it, then you may want to apply for disability.

The more medical evidence you have to back up your claim that you can’t work anymore because of your retrolisthesis is the key to winning your disability claim.

Studies have shown that those who work with a disability lawyer are three times more likely to qualify for disability than those who don’t. If you have retrolisthesis and you can't work anymore, take our free disability case evaluation to be connected with an attorney who can take a case in your area. 


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